The sun isn’t the only thing that shines in Florida. Twenty-one of Florida’s remaining 30 historic lighthouses still shine every night. The Florida Lighthouse Association focuses its rescue beacon on these 30 structures from the original 59 that were built.
Stan Farnham, president of the Florida Lighthouse Association (FLA) said the organization has made “Great strides in shedding the light of history on lighthouse preservation with an all-volunteer organization. We’ve grown from humble beginnings in 1996 to nearly 1,000 members today.”
Although many individuals had a hand in founding FLA, Tom Taylor (1945-2004), had the vision, and driving force to organize the new association in 1996. Taylor said the objective was to “disseminate information and to help in the preservation of the lighthouses in the state of Florida, the United States and the world and to stimulate interest in lighthouses in general.” Taylor served as president of the group from 1997-2002.
At the first annual meeting, chaired by Taylor, the 26 founders approved the name, bylaws and elected officers. Of the first officers, President Ann Caneer (served 1996), Treasurer Kathy Fleming and Historian Neil Hurley remain active in FLA. Hurley is still Historian for the group. Kathy Fleming, who is also Executive Director of St. Augustine Lighthouse and Ann Caneer, Executive Director of Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, remain members, as do some of the original members including Hib Casselberry, Hal Belcher, Paul Bradley, Bill and Frieda Trotter, Cindi Para and Richard Johnson.
Wayne Hawes served as president 2002-2004.The members then elected Gene Oakes (1948-2006), who reinvigorated the association with new initiatives, including kick starting the moribund specialty license plate effort, but his efforts were tragically cut short by his untimely death in January 2006. The members then elected Stan Farnham as the association’s fifth president.
The top goal of the specialty license plate saw the Gene Oakes Memorial license fund surge from $13,488 in early 2006 to above $60,000. The application, submitted in October 2007, included a four-page marketing and financial plan, artwork for the specialty tag, $60,000 fee and results of a $14,000 survey that had to show 30,000 Floridians would be willing to buy the new plate. Obtaining a specialty license in Florida also requires legislative action.
For goal number two of new partnerships, FLA participated in Visit Florida, FLORIDA TRUST® and Florida Association of Museums conferences and forums to help meet the strategic goal of building alliances for a stronger influence voice and leveraging of resources.
For the funding goal, Florida had a first in 2007 with Governor Charley Crist’s lighthouse budget initiative, followed by first ever Lighthouse Legislature Grant Awards at Cape St. George, Crooked River, Anclote Key Lighthouses of $1 million; plus money for Amelia Lighthouse in a separate grant.
Florida Lighthouse Day, September 15, 2007, was the largest celebration ever with 10 lighthouses open with special events; including the kickoffs for rebuilding St. George and restoring Crooked River Lighthouses.
FLA’s web site was launched in April 2006 and now has more than 140 pages and 264 site links, the treasurer upgraded financial reporting and the Board approved a new grant procedure and the FLA 365 Club began and has raised more than $6,000.
At the 2007 annual meeting Farnham said, “It is a thrill to be serving at this exciting time in our history.” The 14 officers and commissioners all agreed to continue and were elected for another term.
Six Florida lighthouses are open to the public, including St. Augustine, Ponce de Leon Inlet, Jupiter, Cape Florida, Key West and Boca Grande. The publicly open lighthouses attract nearly a half million visitors a year. They take in more than $4.5 million in admissions and gift shop sales funds, so have an economic impact. Quarterly meetings of the Florida Lighthouse Association alternate among the lighthouses, with some lighthouses not open to the public being open to members for the meetings only.
FLA has had major successes and exciting progress on their goals, including:
In June 2006, a team of more than
30 members developed a strategic plan to provide a clear direction, mission, and goals. “Since then,” Farnham said, “we have had a laser-lock focus on the key goals.”
1. Achieve specialty lighthouse license plate for sustained funding for lighthouses.
2. Forge strategic alliances and partnerships to develop a combined powerhouse.
3. Develop a comprehensive and effective funding, other than the license plate, of state funding, corporate sponsorship, and legacy gifting.
4. Increase and broaden membership: Build a better sense of membership.
5. Support Local Lighthouse organizations: “We exist to help all the Florida lighthouses.”
6. Develop strong public and children education programs and speakers.
7. Have Fun!
“Imagine if all were restored and open.”
For information about the FLA
visit their web site at:
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2008 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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